Okay, so what’s the catch? I keep seeing these little laptop computers around and they’re so cheap! I saw one for less than $200 the other day. Are they for real or are they too good to be true?
Welcome to the world of “netbooks.” These cute little laptop/notebook computers are starting to pop up all over the place and for some users, they’re going to be a virtual slam dunk!
Before we get started, I know there are more expensive netbooks that are really powerful and are priced accordingly, but for today, we’re just going to focus on the inexpensive models.
First off, if for $200, you’re expecting a powerhouse laptop running Windows Vista, sporting a large HD, lots of memory and plenty of power, you might as well forget it! I was looking over the specs for a few of them and I felt like I had stepped into the past when digital dinosaurs once roamed the Internet. We’re talking 1 GB of RAM, a 1.2 Ghz processor and an 8 GB hard drive. Sure, some are more powerful, but the price climbs accordingly.
Another surprise is, in a lot of cases, the computers aren’t even running Windows. Nope, they’re running Linux (a free operating system that’s largely used in Web servers, but is starting to gain some traction with desktop and laptop users).
Now, Linux is a great operating system. It’s stable, uses minimal resources, boots up in seconds and it even has a good interface. However, getting extra software for it depends on your ability to find it online and hardware drivers can be very difficult to come by.
However, extras for netbook computers may not be a problem, as many of them don’t allow you to add outside applications or hardware anyway. What you get when you buy it is pretty much what you get (unless the vendor offers you more pricey proprietary goodies).
Oh, and did I mention the keyboards can be impossibly small for some fingers? I personally hate a regular laptop keyboard, so an even smaller one would put me over the edge!
Now, the question of the day: Why on earth would anyone buy a netbook?
Well, consider the way most people use their computers. They surf the Web, check e-mail, chat, do a little word processing or spreadsheeting, maybe download their digital camera files and perhaps manage their music. If that’s all you do, why fork out a few hundred more for an expensive laptop running Vista? A netbook may just be what you need.
Plus, they’re the perfect size to take with you anywhere. Forget hauling your big laptop around! Netbooks are much smaller in comparison. If you’re just checking the Web or your e-mail while you’re on the road, they would work really well. In fact, I know for the majority of my travels, a netbook is probably all I would need.
So, are they worth it? Well, that all depends on what you’re going to do with it. My advice is to really look over the computer and what software and hardware it includes. Can it do everything you want it to do or is it going to come up shy? Will it work okay with your MP3 player/iPod? Does it have a card reader? How does it connect to the Internet? Does it use standard wireless? Can it use a service from your mobile phone provider? Can you install other software on it? Those are just a few questions you should be asking.
Overall, just remember that you get what you pay for. Netbooks can be a fantastic deal if they fit your needs, but a source of real frustration if they don’t.
Side Note: Your best bet may be a Windows based netbook that maybe isn’t up to “full” notebook power, but still outclasses the $200 netbooks we’ve been discussing. If nothing else, you know you can install software on it (just make sure it has a CD/DVD ROM drive) and any USB hardware you plug in should work. It’s just something new to think about!